Record 7,000 applicants seek to take part in Erasmus programmes

Surge in application numbers as learners ‘locked out by lockdown’ seek to travel

Record numbers of students have applied to take part in the Erasmus+ programme as many seek to broaden their horizons following more than a year of lockdown and remote learning.

About 7,000 people have applied for Erasmus+ for the 2021-23 period, up from 5,100.

An expanded version of the programme - which support study visits, traineeships, volunteering and collaboration between schools and colleges across Europe - will allow adult learners and early childhood organisations to take part for the first time. The period of travel for participants has also been made more flexible and can range from as little as a week to as long as a year.

The 2021-2027 Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps programme was officially launched at a virtual event on Tuesday hosted by Léargas - which manages international exchange programmes - and the Higher Education Authority


Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris welcomed the increase in numbers.

“This is a record-breaking year for Erasmus+ with more people than ever applying for the programme. This is despite the uncertainty of the pandemic and Brexit,” he said.

‘Exciting development’

“And this year, for the first time, adult learners will be able to travel for periods of learning. This is a really exciting development in expanding this important programme.”

In addition, the new European Solidarity Corps programme has been announced. It will support people aged 18 to 30 to volunteer or work in projects that benefit communities.

Under this European Union initiative , volunteering and solidarity projects will be funded for more than a quarter of a million young people across Europe. It will allow volunteers to receive funding for accommodation, food, travel, insurance and pocket money through their sending organisation.

All participants will receive a certificate detailing the actions they have taken through the European Solidarity Corps.

In all, it is estimated that 85,000 learners, staff, young people and volunteers will benefit from improved funding under the Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps programmes over the next six years.

Gerry O’Sullivan, the Higher Education Authority’s head of international programmes, said the increase in funding would enable a more inclusive and diverse programme.

He said application numbers show that higher education students and staff have lost none of their appetite for study/work abroad despite the pandemic and challengers posed by Brexit.


Mr O’Sullivan said the Erasmus+ is the most “most radical overhaul” in more than a decade with shorter mobility options offered alongside the traditional two–12-month periods.

Much-needed additional finance is also being provided to boost the participation of students with fewer opportunities, he said

“Since 2014, we have been providing top-up support for Susi grant students with participation rates growing from 6 per cent to 17 per cent in 2019. The provision of an additional €250 per month for this category will have a major impact in this area,” he said.

Lorraine Gilligan, executive director of Léargas, said the pandemic and associated restrictions have had an unparalleled impact on young people in particular, right across society.

"Some have felt 'locked out by lockdown' and we are delighted that with the increased funding for Erasmus+ and the European Solidarity Corps, we are beginning to unlock transformative opportunities to travel, study and volunteer abroad for even more people in Ireland, " she said.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent